What do you want to change?
There are many reasons to renovate. You may need to
repair or replace something, such as roofing, siding or windows. You may
want to modernize a tired-looking kitchen or bathroom. Or changes in
your household, such as the arrival of a new child or the need for a
home office, may require alterations to your home. Thinking through what
you want to change, and why, serves as the foundation for your
- Take an inventory. Make a list
of everything in your home you want to change. This should include
"must-do" repairs, maintenance and remodelling, as well as things you
would like to change if your budget allows. It’s also useful to note
things you really like about your home and want to preserve as-is.
- Describe each item on your list
briefly in terms of your day-to-day living experience. Here are a few
examples of how homeowners describe some of the more common problems
that lead to renovation:
only have one bathroom and with two teenagers and two working parents,
getting everyone out the door in the morning is a real headache. I feel
like I've been in a traffic jam before I even leave the house."
never really use our living room. It's too formal for the way we live,
and with the smaller windows in these older homes, it's too dark and
- Make sure that everyone in your home participates.
Renovators find that people often overlook inconvenient aspects in
their homes simply because they are used to them. So take some time
doing this inventory and get input from all members of your household.
- Think about seasonal conditions.
If you are planning your renovation in the summer, think back to last
winter. Did you have enough closet space for coats and boots? Are there
areas of your home that are drafty or hard to heat? Conversely, if your
planning is taking place during the colder months, think about your
lifestyle during the summer.
To help you: Download and use Worksheet "A" to record the changes you want to make to your home.
Defining goals and setting priorities
Beyond necessary repairs, your home renovation should
provide you with improved function, comfort and convenience. To achieve
this, you need to set some general goals for your project and determine
what your priorities are.
In setting goals, consider the day-to-day
experience of living in your home and focus on how you want this to be
improved by your renovation. For instance, if your existing kitchen is a
problem, describe how your dream kitchen would work. Here’s an example:
"I'll be able to cook
dinner without having to stop and clean up all the time. There's plenty
of working space right near the stove and there's also a big area for
setting out dishes and serving plates. Everything I need is close at
hand, but not on the counter top – there are lots of drawers and
cupboards for everything. And there is enough space so that someone else
can sit at the kitchen table, and we can carry on a conversation
without bumping into each other."
By describing your renovation goals this way, you focus on what you want
to achieve in relation to your lifestyle. There are three important
aspects you should pay particular attention to:
- Use of Space. How you use a room
determines the amount of space required and the extent to which the
space needs to be open or closed to surrounding areas of your home. What
activities will take place in the room? What existing or future
furnishings must fit into it? Will noise from this room be disruptive to
- Light and Brightness. What are
the lighting requirements of the activities planned for each room? Do
existing windows provide adequate sunlight and a feeling of
spaciousness? Will you use this room more during the day or in the
evening? If artificial light is needed, would general lighting or task
lighting be more suitable?
- Movement of People. What are the
traffic patterns through each area of your home? Does a room provide
access to other frequently used parts of your home like the kitchen or
bathroom and does this conflict with the activities you plan for this
With clear goals in place, you can then determine what your priorities are.
Use Worksheet "B"
to write down your renovation goals. With clear goals in place, you can
now determine what your priorities are. This next part of renovation
planning can be the most fun and exciting.
Your Wish List
This next part of renovation planning can be the most
fun and exciting. Developing a "Wish List" involves listing the specific
features you would like to include in your project and deciding on the
importance of each item. “We need this” items are those things you
absolutely need. “We like this” items are those you’d like to have, but
that are not essential if your budget is tight.
This stage of planning is all about exploring design and product ideas
and learning as much as you can about what is available. Get out and see
what others have done, what new products are available and what type of
"look" is right for your family and home. Here are some ideas:
- CHBA renovators across Canada do amazing work,
and the best of the best in home design is found in CHBA’s national
awards program. Check out our photo galleries of the winners of in
CHBA’s National Awards for Housing Excellence, and be prepared to be
- The Internet is of course a fabulous source of
home renovation ideas. Search "home renovation ideas" and start
looking. Visit home improvement retailers’ websites for specific product
ideas. Try going to specific product manufacturers websites. Save the
things you like or print them out.
- Look for design and home improvement magazines at
your local newsstand, library or online. Collect pictures of homes,
rooms and products that appeal to you.
- Visit new home builders' show homes to see the latest in design, construction and finishing of homes.
- Visit kitchen, bathroom and other retail
showrooms. Talk with salespeople and pick up manufacturers' literature
on the types and brands of products you like. For a list of local home
builders in your area click here.
- In many communities, home shows are held during
the year. Renovators, designers and product manufacturers take part in
these shows. This provides an excellent opportunity to see what's new.
Check with your Local Home Builders' Association for information about home shows.
- In some communities, local renovators will
organize renovation open house tours to showcase recent renovation
projects. Again, check with your Local Home Builders' Association for details.
Keep the information you collect in a file, box or
computer folder for later reference. This material will be very useful
in discussions with renovators and will give them a good idea of what
you like and want. Use Worksheet "D" to write down your wish list and priority items.
The Design Process
A successful renovation depends on good design.
Whether you are remodelling the entire house, turning your basement into
living space or updating your kitchen, the quality of the design will
determine how satisfied you will be with the finished job.
Experienced renovators will work with you to
explore designs that fit your home, lifestyle and budget. The
information you have developed through your own planning process will
pay off at this point in the process. Renovators will also advise you on
the level of design detail and specification needed before they can
provide you with a firm cost estimate and contract, and the work can get
- For a simple renovation project, you and the
renovator may be able to work out the design details. If your renovation
is large or complex, the renovator may suggest that design be dealt
with as a first and separate step of your project.
- A growing number of renovation companies have a
designer on staff - part of a growing trend towards one-stop shopping.
Alternatively, renovators may recommend a designer or architect from
their network of professional associates Either way, having a renovator
involved at the design stage helps to ensure that your design is
practical and feasible from a construction standpoint.
- Typically, the design process begins with a
discussion of your ideas and a look at photos, drawings or product
literature that you may have collected. The renovator or designer will
also ask you to describe what you are trying to accomplish and what do
you really need and want.
- Based on this information, "concept sketches" are
developed, usually more than one to give you a range of options. Often
additional fine-tuning is needed to complete the design.
- At the end of the design phase, you will have a
set of drawings or plans that are the basis for getting cost estimates.
The drawings should show clearly what the final project will look like,
including close-up details, and be accompanied by a specification list
of the products and materials to be used.
- When your renovation entails structural changes
or other work that requires a construction permit, working drawings or
blueprints are required for approval by your municipality. Professional
renovators can take care of all the details, including dealing with
- Renovation time is the perfect time to improve
the energy efficiency of your home—indeed, the desire improved energy
efficiency is often what starts a reno project. To get best informed
about the most cost effective ways to improve your home’s energy
performance, the best approach is for you or your renovator to engage an
Certified by the Government of Canada, these professionals do a
detailed analysis of your home and give you a full report on its current
energy performance, along with a potential level your home can reach
with a list of the optimum recommended upgrades for you to consider over
time to get there.
Tips for keeping within your budget
Renovating entails balancing what you want and the financial resources you have available. Professional renovators suggest a number of approaches that can help to stretch your budget.
- Set priorities. Cost-wise
renovations begin with a clear plan of what you want to accomplish. The
previous section walks you through how to do this.
- Look closely at what you already have.
Look for the hidden assets in your home. For instance, homeowners
sometimes assume that they need extra floor space when all that may be
needed is more effectively designed space. By rearranging interior
walls, eliminating separations and installing larger windows, a
less-costly renovation can often create the sense of spaciousness and
light you want.
- Old hardwood is often of high quality and can be
refinished. If your old trim and doors are in good shape, they can be
refinished rather than replaced. And be sure to look under carpeting to
see what’s underneath – in older homes this is often vintage hardwood.
- Do the work in stages to suit your budget. Doing
the project in phases may allow you to achieve the results you want
without undue financial pressure. Your professional renovator can help
develop a master plan with proper sequencing of tasks, timelines and
- Consider capital versus operating costs.
Water-conserving fixtures will save a considerable amount of money over
time in areas with water metering. Likewise, energy-efficient lighting,
high-efficiency heating systems and electronic thermostats mean
long-term savings. Professional renovators are up-to-date on the latest
technologies and can provide you with the information you need to make
wise decisions for the long term.
- Do some of the work yourself. If
you have the skills, time and interest, you can stretch your renovation
dollars by taking on some of the work yourself. Generally, renovators
recommend that you leave structural and mechanical renovations to the
professionals, but many homeowners can do their own painting,
landscaping or other finishing jobs.